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Humans of Lob: Steven Waldon
Lob Culture
September 21, 2023

Humans of Lob: Steven Waldon

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Dolly Slinker

Humans of Lob is a project dedicated to getting to know our Lobsters on an individual level. We sat down with Steven Waldon, our Staff Executive Assistant.

Tell us about yourself! What are you all about?

In a nutshell? Passion and adventure. That seems to be the theme woven throughout what I do in my life, whether it’s work or pleasure. When I find something I enjoy, I dive in head first and sometimes never come up for air.

As for where I’m from, I was born and raised in Southern California and spent the majority of my adult life in New York City. I was there for approximately 12 years, which sounds like a long time but it goes by very quickly. There’s a very prominent running scene there, and I quickly fell in love with the sport. Since then I’ve run over 70 marathons and ultra-marathons, and I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon.

In 2018, my partner and I moved to the Bay Area to be closer to family. I now call Mill Valley home, and one of the things I appreciate most about the area is the access to nature and trails.

What was the last trip you went on?

Like most of my trips, the last trip was a bit of an adventure. I spent a week running across a portion of the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, competing in an event called the Gobi March. It’s a self-supported stage race that requires you to carry a backpack of necessary equipment (a week’s worth of food, clothes, sleeping gear, medical supplies, safety equipment), all while running 156 miles through the desert over the course of six stages (one per day). The first three stages averaged about 25 miles a day; the fourth was 50 miles; the fifth was 26.2 miles; and the sixth and final stage was an easy 5 miles (a victory lap, really).

Aside from the distance, the race is difficult because it's hot, the terrain can destroy your soul with difficulty self-doubt (think 3+ mile sections of dunes that shift under your feet as you try to climb them), and you’ve got to do all this while carrying 20+ pounds of gear on your back.

You’re probably wondering, “Why would anyone even do this?” It’s simple – I find meaning in pushing my physical limits and doing hard things, especially when success and outcomes are not guaranteed.

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re like me and lead a very cushioned life. We get up every morning, have a hot shower, make some coffee, choose from a dozen breakfast options, commute to work (or work remotely from the comfort of our home), and do all of this without a concern or breaking a sweat. I never wake up worrying where I’m going to get my coffee from or how I will manage to get to work. But standing at the start line on Day 1 of the Gobi March, I was not certain that I would be able to finish. There’s no deadline extensions and no one to pick up the slack when things get difficult – and they always get difficult. You have to take each of those 328,712 steps (according to my Garmin) yourself.

Although I get a sense of general satisfaction when I finish a project at work or around the house, there’s something that makes me feel truly alive when enduring physical extremes and coming out the other end. I was able to finish in the top 10 in the field, and crossing the finish line I was already planning in my head what the next adventure race would be.

You've been at Lob for five years, tell us a little bit about your time here.

For me working at Lob has always been about the people. When I moved to the Bay Area it was for family. I was not particularly looking to work in “tech.” But I still remember interviewing with the VP of Engineering, and after a couple of rounds of interviews, I just thought to myself that these are the people I want to work with. At the time Lob was about 50 people, it was pretty small. You got to know everyone very well, very quickly.

In the past five years I’ve seen two big changes. This first is that Lob has grown quite a bit. We’ve raised more money and tripled in size. The second is COVID – it’s shifted Lob to a remote work culture and it’s been a challenge to find some of the connections that were so easy to make in-person before. However I still feel that I get to work and interact with some special people, and that’s one of the big reasons I’ve stayed.

How would you describe your perfect day?

A perfect day, when I feel fulfilled, is any time I’ve finished a big race, something that I’ve specifically trained for and had on the calendar for months or even possibly years. Whether it’s a road marathon or a trail ultramarathon, there’s nothing that gives me that sense of accomplishment as pushing myself physically. Followed by several beers, of course.

If you could become an expert on anything, what would it be?

How to pick lottery numbers.

What is your favorite hot food on a cold day and cold food on a hot day?

Hot food on a cold day is easily ramen. That's my go-to. I probably have it two or three times a week. Cold food on a hot day? A savory salad.

What is something you're passionate about?

Lately, and it’s somewhat of a passion of necessity, it’s been working on my house. My partner and I bought a place earlier this year that needed some work, from the house itself to all of the landscaping front and back.

A couple years ago I got into woodworking and metalworking, and a lot of those skills have allowed me to take on some ambitious, possibly over-the-top home improvement projects. There’s a very real sense of satisfaction that comes with creating something physical. Seeing change, seeing improvements, seeing something materially better than it was before (or that didn’t even exist before) – creating something is incredibly rewarding, even if it kills my back and I can’t feel my hands the next day.

In some sense this is similar to comments I’ve heard from some engineers who work at Lob. The fact that there’s a physical product, with all its complexities and inherent problems, is a unique and rewarding challenge of the work.

You're having a dinner party and you can invite five fictional famous or historic people, who would you want to invite? And why?

Definitely Bruce Springsteen, put him at the top of the list and first to get the invite. Then let’s go with Benjamin Franklin, who seems like the best kind of mad genius. Caveat: this has nothing to do with them interacting with each other, it's just about me being selfish and interacting with interesting people. Unless Bruce Springsteen happens to love Benjamin Franklin, which wouldn’t surprise me. It would however surprise me if Franklin was a Springsteen fan. I would say Willie Moscone. He was an old pool player who lived and breathed the game and seemed like an old crotchety guy who fascinated me. Rounding out the last two I’m going with Courtney Dauwalter and Kilian Jornet because I love their attitude toward running and how it influences their lives.

Who is someone you admire?

When I hear this question, I feel this expectation to name someone famous or universally admired, but no one comes to mind. I think it’s because on a visceral level, the people whom I admire the most are those close to me: my family, specifically my grandparents and for the sake of picking just one person I’ll say my grandfather (my grandmother was just as amazing).

Two weeks ago I was in Hawaii, staying with my auntie in Captain Cook. And every night, like we do, we spent time on the lanai with some wine and talked story. Family history always comes up, and each time I can’t help but admire how hard my grandfather worked to create and support lives for themselves and their kids (one of whom being my mother). It’s something I didn’t realize or know about when I was young, but he came from nothing and sacrificed and succeeded in ways I could never imagine.

My grandfather was one of nine kids, and never got the chance to go to high school because he had to work from a young age to support the family. He spent his childhood and much of his life working coffee farms in Kona. He wasn’t born with a headstart on life, and he had to build his life from the ground up with his own two hands. Those hands built a house, raised three kids, and will always remind me that you don’t need much to live a beautiful life.

Fun fact: as an adult my grandfather went back to school to get his GED (high school equivalency degree) and essentially graduated the same year my mother graduated high school.

What's a movie that you've cried the hardest in?

The Joy Luck Club. It's an Amy Tan novel that was made into a movie in ‘93. Watch it and weep.

Steve Waldon, Lob

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